Jason Licht has to go it alone in this year's NFL Draft, and now so do Carmen Vitali and I.
Like his fellow general managers around the league, Licht will be conducting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' portion of the 2020 draft from his home, with only light IT help on hand. He's not worried about technical glitches while the Buccaneers are on the clock; as he pointed out last week, if needed he could always go with the tried-and-true method we've known for decades.
"Sometimes you can get a little over-technical in these situations," said Licht. "You want to make sure you have a hardline phone. You want to make sure you have several phones available to you – cell phones or what have you. But sometimes it comes down to the old-fashioned picking up the phone and calling the league office and saying, 'We are going to pick this player.'"
Carmen and I are now going to go the old-fashioned route, too. That is: one person, one mock draft. Since February, we have been combining forces to produce a biweekly series of mocks, each time alternating picks throughout the round (and once going two rounds). Now, with the real thing just hours away, we are each going to make all 32 picks. You'll find them below, side by side. Next week, we'll return to this dueling draft and see how we did as prognosticators.
One note: Trades will be allowed. As it turned out, Carmen made three trades, one of which involved the Buccaneers. I made only one small deal, though I'm sure there will actually be more.
One last time: Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of what follows is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Bruce Arians or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are our guesses, Carmen and Scott. Blame us if you don't like them.
And we're off. Last year, I picked first at each spot; this year, Carmen has the honors.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Carmen Vitali: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
Like Kyler Murray last year, where there's smoke, there's fire. Let's not overthink this.
Scott Smith: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
Do you think the Bengals have sent their gear to his house yet?
2. Washington Redskins
Carmen Vitali: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
Young is top two and he's probably not two but Cincy needs a QB so this guy falls out of the top spot for which Washington is grateful.
Scott Smith: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
Sure, Washington will get calls about potential trades, but a team would have to absolutely blow them away to get them off Young. No, the front line isn't Washington's biggest need, but neither was it for San Francisco last year when they took Nick Bosa. For the sixth time in the last seven years, the first non-QB off the board is an edge rusher. It's what NFL teams want.
3. Detroit Lions
Carmen Vitali: [TRADE] Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
Here's where it gets interesting. With Tua Tagovailoa's durability in question, I think the Chargers recognize Miami might not be all-in on the former Alabama quarterback after all. They jump up to grab Herbert before the Dolphins can, giving up their second-round pick (37) and fifth-round pick (151), putting the Sunshine look-alike in those awesome new uniforms. They're no Bucs unis, but seriously have you seen those things? They're dope.
Scott Smith: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
For the record, I absolutely think Detroit would be trading down in a normal year. However, with so much more uncertainty in the process this year, I think teams will be a little leery of trading away extra capital for a quarterback. Of course, that uncertainty is exactly why Carmen is predicting a trade, so that certainly makes sense. And, YES, those new Chargers uniforms are fantastic. I love the numbers on the helmets.
4. New York Giants
Carmen Vitali: T Jedrick Wills, Alabama
I'm not very happy about the Giants starting the tackle run right now and neither is Scott below. But it's hard to argue that New York doesn't need some more protection for Daniel Jones and they have their pick of the litter right now. Is Wills the best of the Big Four? I'm not sure but he may be the best choice for an immediate contributor.
Scott Smith: T Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
I've resisted this in our mock drafts, usually leading the Giants to the Isaiah Simmons trough. But I couldn't make them drink, and the offensive tackle run starts uncomfortably early. It's certainly a position of need for New York, and has been for some time, although one could argue the needs are more pressing on the other side of the ball.
5. Miami Dolphins
Carmen Vitali: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
The Dolphins get their man, after all. Whether or not he was actually their man going into draft night? We'll never know thanks to the Chargers maneuvering to take that choice away from them. I can't wait to see how this quarterback class plays out a year or two from now.
Scott Smith: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
We got to the same place in different ways. Yes, there are reasons for the Dolphins to be nervous about this, and no I don't think they would trade up to get Tua. But it's time for the Dolphins to swing big, and unless they think the Alabama star is a serious long-term injury risk, this is their man. Everybody is rightfully impressed with what Joe Burrow did in 2019, but Tua was just about equally impressive in 2018 and 2019 before he got hurt.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Carmen Vitali: [TRADE] Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
And here's why the Lions jumped at the chance to trade down. They knew that it was likely they'd be able to snag Okudah anyway and now, they have an extra second and fifth-round pick. Wins may have proved elusive for the Lions during the regular season but they get a major one with this move in the draft.
Scott Smith: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The Chargers pretty neatly move on from the Philip Rivers era and they can take the Patrick Mahomes approach and let him simmer for a year behind Tyrod Taylor. Herbert is strong-armed, big and sneakily athletic. He's go the tools and the redshirt year in LA will allow him to work on his progressions and adjust to the NFL game.
7. Carolina Panthers
Carmen Vitali: LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
I hate this. I hate it.
Scott Smith: LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
This was probably the subconscious reason I kept giving Simmons to the Giants at four. I mean, it would be a great pick for the Giants, in my estimation, but it would also keep him away from the NFC South. Simmons can assume the defensive superstar mantle from Luke Kuechly, albeit in what is probably going to be a more versatile role.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Carmen Vitali: T Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
I don't particularly like another tackle going off the board here, either. But with Simmons gone, the Cardinals can get a very athletic tackle to keep up with the very athletic Kyler Murray.
Scott Smith: T Jedrick Wills, Alabama
I toyed around with Derrick Brown at this spot and I also think this is a potential landing spot for any team trying to trade up for one of the top-rated tackles or receivers, but in the end I think the more important thing is to help out Murray, just like the Giants did for Daniel Jones.
View pictures of QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski through the years.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Carmen Vitali: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
The Panthers considered Brown but couldn't let Simmons slip past given that they are in need of both a linebacker and a safety and an all-around amazing defensive chess piece. Dang. I'm still salty. But the Jags aren't now that they get Brown, who is projected as a Pro Bowl-caliber talent already. Which is good. Because Jacksonville let a Pro Bowl-caliber talent go this offseason for a… fourth-round pick?
Scott Smith: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
Amazing that the Jaguars' defense is in rebuilding mode just a couple years after it was dominant. But there's no more Jalen Ramsey, no more Calais Campbell, no more Telvin Smith, no more A.J. Bouye and there's probably going to be a lot less Yannick Ngakoue soon. They can add to any level of their defense and Brown is the best defensive player on the board.
10. Cleveland Browns
Carmen Vitali: [TRADE] Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T Andrew Thomas, Georgia
The Buccaneers recognize where this is going and don't want to let the tackles get gobbled up before they get their shot. That means getting ahead of the Jets. Yes, New York needs a receiver bad but I don't know if I trust them to take one this early in such a deep wideout class. They could feasibly still get an immediate contributor with a later pick so I think the Bucs get wind the Jets & Browns are about to snatch up a tackle and make this move. Despite their need, the Browns can't resist more capital. The difference between the two spots is 200 points, according to the Jimmy Johnson value chart, so Tampa Bay gives up their third-round pick, which is worth 210 points.
This puts the Bucs in a little bit of a bind, admittedly. They no longer have their fourth-round compensatory pick either after the team traded for the now-unretired Rob Gronkowski. But there are other ways of acquiring draft capital and I'm thinking Tampa Bay uses some bartering chips in the later rounds to make up for the loss. Right now, their focus is getting an immediate contributor who can help protect quarterback Tom Brady. Given Thomas' SEC pedigree and experience in his freshman year at right tackle, he becomes their guy.
Scott Smith: T Andrew Thomas, Georgia
The Browns signed Jack Conklin but would like to keep him at his right tackle position, so they draft Thomas here to man the left side, as he did at an All-American level the last two seasons.
11. New York Jets
Carmen Vitali: T Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Sure enough, the Jets prove the Bucs' suspicions right by taking the last of the 'Big Four' tackles. Sorry, Cleveland. But like Scott said, they have Conklin for right now so they're not SUPER desperate.
Scott Smith: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
And here we are. If the Bucs truly do want one of the consensus top four at offensive tackle, one of them is going to have to get by the Jets, who definitely could use some help on the line. But the Jets badly need a number-one receiver, as well, and by taking him here they can get the first one on their board. They could also go cornerback here, so at least there some reasonable options that could pull them away from the offensive line.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
Carmen Vitali: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
I think the Raiders need quite a bit of help at receiver and taking one this early doesn't preclude them from taking another later. They go with Ruggs, the speedster who without having to split time with college teammate Jerry Jeudy could have a breakout year. There's also been a rumor circulating about a previously undisclosed knee procedure Jeudy had done – but it's smokescreen season so who knows how credible that is. He's still very much in that top-tier receiver group.
Scott Smith: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Mike Mayock recently conceded that the Raiders need to get better at wide receiver, and while they will have other opportunities to do so in the next couple rounds, here they can land a guy who has a chance to be a superstar. Jeudy is a precise route-runner and he knows how to get away from tight coverage at the line and create separation quickly. If the late Al Davis was still making the picks, this would absolutely be Henry Ruggs instead.
13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis)
Carmen Vitali: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
The 49ers need more weapons for Jimmy G if they want to make another run at the Super Bowl. Lamb is an outstanding do-it-all guy could be a big help, especially after the departure of Emmanuel Sanders. Lamb will bring youth to the unit and should be an immediate contributor.
Scott Smith: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
And the run on receivers continues. I think the 49ers would have preferred Lamb but aren't complaining about landing the fastest receiver in the draft, one who can both take the lid off the top and make big plays on deep crosses with play-action but also run away from defenders on short passes.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carmen Vitali: [TRADE] Las Vegas Raiders: DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
The Browns move down again - new GM Andrew Barry is wheeling and dealing. The Raiders see that Javon Kinlaw is still on the board and Mike Mayock isn't afraid to go get him. It allows Las Vegas to jump potential landing spots for Kinlaw like Atlanta, Dallas and even Miami. Raiders give up a third (No. 80) and a fourth (No. 121) but they still have plenty left.
Scott Smith: T Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Well, Carmen got the Bucs a tackle with a trade up and I got them one by believing the Jets will go wide receiver. I hope one of us is right. Becton is a road-grading right tackle who is surprisingly nimble for his size (6-7, 364!) and has an incredible seven-foot wingspan. I don't know how it's possible to have that and 5.1-second 40 speed, but here we are. Becton has played on both ends of the line, which could be valuable in the long run, but he starts out on the right side in Tampa.
15. Denver Broncos
Carmen Vitali: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
I think there may be a sneaky rise in cornerbacks in the first round. Yes, the Broncos need receiving help too but with one of the best corners in the draft just sitting there, they opt to address that need first.
Scott Smith: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
I thought about making a trade up for the Broncos to land Ruggs, but it's just not necessary in this year's draft class. Jefferson was incredibly productive for LSU and he's a great weapon out of the slot to pair with 2019 breakout receiver Courtland Sutton, who saw 82% of his snaps on the outside. Jefferson is fearless over the middle and has 4.4-second speed.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Carmen Vitali: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
I hate this, too.
Scott Smith: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
This is a scenario that Carmen and I have been dreading in the previous versions of our mock drafts. The Falcons could also use a cornerback but I think there's a bigger gap here in top-end potential between Chaisson and the next edge rusher than there is between Henderson (who I would have picked) and the next cornerback.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Carmen Vitali: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
The 'Boys need help on the back end, period. McKinney has risen it seems to be the clear-cut top safety prospect and certainly got tested in college going up against the SEC. He's versatile enough to play either safety spot and can provide help to whatever corners Dallas ends up getting.
Scott Smith: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
Kinlaw is mighty tempting here but Byron Jones got away and Anthony Brown is more of a slot guy. Chidobe Awuzie still might develop into a long-term stable starter but the Cowboys hedge their bets here with Henderson.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh)
Carmen Vitali: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Oop. Look who fell this far. Looks like there was something to that knee concern, after all. But the Dolphins can't pass up the opportunity to reunite former teammates, pairing Jeudy with his college quarterback who they chose earlier in the round.
Scott Smith: T Josh Jones, Houston
I'd like to land a tackle and a running back for the Dolphins with the 18th and 26th selections, and I'll go tackle first because I think it's possible all the running backs are still on the board at number 26. Jones may not be quite as polished, technique-wise, as the "Top Four" tackles, but the size and athleticism is there and it's possible he proves to be just as good in the long run as Wills, Wirfs and company.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago)
Carmen Vitali: [TRADE] Cleveland Browns: T Josh Jones, Houston
Look at Cleveland, doing that thing there. They execute not one but two trades down and still end up with an immediate contributor at the tackle position. I honestly don't think Jones is that far behind in development than the 'big four' and he looked great in Mobile at the Senior Bowl against top tier talent. I suppose he had to contend with guys like Ed Oliver in practice for some of his collegiate career. Either way, the Browns have to be excited about this pick PLUS all the capital they've accumulated in later rounds. Though, admittedly, Ezra Cleveland to Cleveland would have been something.
Scott Smith: LB Kenneth Murray
The Raiders got the second wide receiver off the board but here they get the first off-the-ball linebacker in the Oklahoma star. I guess they were able to move on the position Sooner this time. (Help me, I'm home alone with my dad jokes.) The Raiders are really ticking off their most obvious needs here in the first round; they desperately needed more playmaking in the middle of their defense.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
Carmen Vitali: S Grant Delpit, LSU
Close your eyes, throw a dart. As long as there's a mix of defensive players on that board, the Jaguars probably need them. In this case, they go with a safety in Delpit who has an extremely high ceiling and a Jim Thorpe Award in his trophy case. Plus, LSU DBs tend to work out in the NFL…
Scott Smith: [TRADE] Minnesota Vikings: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Jacksonville needs a cornerback but sees plenty of available depth in Kristian Fulton, Jeff Gladney and the rising Trevon Diggs. They can afford to move back a couple spots and pick up a fourth-round pick (#132) in the process. The Vikings specifically want to jump ahead of the Eagles because the earlier run on receivers left Higgins sticking out at the top of their board. The 6-4, 216-pound Higgins runs good routes, is difficult to press and has very sure hands and he averaged 19.8 yards per catch last year.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Carmen Vitali: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
Two Tig-ahs in a row! The Eagles need weapons for Wentz and Jefferson can be that reliable slot receiver Philly's offense desperately needs.
Scott Smith: LB Patrick Queen, LSU
And now the Eagles start burning the phone lines trying to move down, perhaps for a team coveting Kinlaw, who is somehow still available (for which I can only blame myself). Problem is, the two teams that I think might covet Kinlaw farther down are Seattle, which NEVER trades up, and San Francisco, who is severely lacking in draft capital beyond the first round. So the Eagles shelve their receiver search for now and fill another very big need at linebacker. And that thing you said about LSU DBs, Carmen? Goes double for linebackers, as we are well aware.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo)
Carmen Vitali: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
The Vikings need some pressure on the quarterback like I need sleep this week. Which is a lot, in case you didn't catch my drift. The Big Ten product is big in size too at 6'5, 265 pounds, and should upgrade Minnesota's pass rush immediately.
Scott Smith: [Trade] Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
What's not to like about Diggs? He's got good size, he can press, he's got quick feet, he's feisty. Maybe he needs to have a bit more discipline in his game but the Jaguars know a lot about discipline, right?
23. New England Patriots
Carmen Vitali: EDGE Zack Baun, Wisconsin
I don't know what it is but I feel like Baun is just a Patriot-type player. He'll also get to join fellow former Badger (and former Buccaneer) in Beau Allen up in New England. After seeing Baun at the Combine, I couldn't get over just how smart this guy is. Things he gets? It. He started as a quarterback before switching to defense and I think that's really helped him. I happen to think a lot of people are higher on this guy than most realize so look, something works out for the Pats after all.
Scott Smith: DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
The Patriots really lucked out, but I suppose their hard-luck fans could really use something to smile about this offseason. The Patriots needed to add a talented big man to the middle of their front but it certainly didn't seem like Brown or Kinlaw would be available this far down. The fact that he was may have saved me…I was seriously toying with the idea of going with Jordan Love here.
24. New Orleans Saints
Carmen Vitali: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
The Saints kinda need players all over and then kinda don't. Nothing is super pressing but if Kenneth Murray falls this far, they could use an inside linebacker and Murray with his skills in coverage is the best in class (if we aren't counting defensive chameleon Isaiah Simmons…. Wow, why am I still so upset?).
Scott Smith: QB Jordan Love, Utah State
Why not? How many mock drafts are right at the 24th pick anyway? I think the Saints would have liked to see Murray or Queen fall this far and they could use some cornerback depth, but they're not really starving at any particular position beyond linebacker. Drew Brees can't play forever (please tell me Drew Brees can't play forever), so this is a shot to get ready for the future.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Carmen Vitali: WR Brandon Aiyuk, ASU
The Vikings need a receiver and though there may be some injury concerns with Aiyuk right now, I don't think it's much of a concern given how far off we are from any sort of real football activities. They got a pass rusher just a few picks earlier so they stop putting off a major need and get the former Sun Devil. Forks Up.
Scott Smith: CB Kristian Fulton, TCU
The Vikings made the bold move for their receiver but didn't have to worry about a good corner finding their way to them here. That's a position of significant need, and Fulton can step right in with his aggressive, play-making form of coverage.
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston)
Carmen Vitali: T Austin Jackson, USC
The Dolphins again?? Finally doing our own separate drafts really hammers home the amount of capital these guys have. It's gotta be impossible for them to screw this draft up, right? Right? Anyway, they take a tackle because they need one to help protect their new potentially injury-prone investment. It's all offense so far for the 'Fins.
Scott Smith: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Indeed, the Dolphins waited on running back for their third pick, after already landing a quarterback and a tackle, and still got the first one off the board. Taylor briefly seemed to take over the consensus top spot among the running backs after a great Combine performance but seems to have gradually ceded that back to D'Andre Swift, and maybe a couple others. But I still believe, and I'm calling the shots here.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Carmen Vitali: S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Ill.
Here's another one where I don't know why, but I feel like Chinn is just the type of guy Pete Carroll likes. Something to prove from a smaller school, maybe? Chinn knocked everyone's socks off at the Combine, but if you were paying attention to things like the Senior Bowl, you would have seen him do well there, too. He's big for a safety too. But Pete Carroll shouldn't take that as license to take his shirt off again.
Scott Smith: LB/EDGE Zack Baun, Wisconsin
I'm glad this isn't an alternating draft because I've been planning to put Baun here for a while and Carmen's pick of him for the Patriots doesn't stop me. It might seem like I'm stealing this idea from Carmen, in fact, as she gave Baun to the Seahawks in our last combined draft. But I was on the versatile Badger all the way back in Version 2.0, when I gave him to the Ravens at the 28th pick. (Which come to think of it, would've been a good idea. Oh, well.) Anyway, this guy might be an off-the-ball linebacker or he might be an edge rusher or he might be both. Pete will figure it out.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Carmen Vitali: LB Patrick Queen, LSU
The Ravens legitimately need nothing in the first round. They're going to be a force and let's just say I'm glad they're safely in the AFC. Despite that, they manage to get an LSU linebacker to follow in the hallowed tradition of Baltimore linebackers. Neat.
Scott Smith: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado
I think Shenault could be a high-variable player on the first two days of the draft. I'm not sure I'd want to have him in the Green Room on Thursday night, just in case. He's a little, I don't know, undefined, but the Ravens' offense is already unlike anything else in the NFL. I think they take a bit of a gamble here that could pay off big, potentially making Baltimore even more confusing for opposing defenses. And we are really having a run on receivers.
29. Tennessee Titans
Carmen Vitali: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
The Titans' defense needs some pressure off the edge and the 6-5, 275-pound former Hawkeye can do just that. He didn't have the best of Combine performances but his college production doesn't lie. He had 11.5 sacks his junior season and 49 tackles, 14.5 of which were for loss. He could fit into any scheme and would do well under a defensively minded head coach like Mike Vrabel.
Scott Smith: T Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
Tennessee didn't pick up the fifth-year option on the last tackle they drafted in the first round, and it was understandable at the time but they would have one less big need if they had been able to keep Jack Conklin around for 2020. This team wants to run the ball, right? Well, Wilson is a 6-6, 350-pound mauler and I think this is another guy, like Baun and Chinn, who is more highly-regarded in scouting circles than in the general media.
30. Green Bay Packers
Carmen Vitali: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
It was never a question of what position – Green Bay ALWAYS needs receivers, but rather which one. I'm circling back to my original Packers pick in 1.0 and going with Reagor, first of his name from the land of Horned Frog. Seriously, receiver or Game of Thrones character? You decide.
Scott Smith: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
In our very first mock draft, Carmen gave Aaron Rodgers and the Pack Reagor, and in our last version I did the same thing. We can't both be wrong, can we? I like Reagor as an underneath playmaker for the Packers, who already added Devin Funchess to be the big target outside. That's SEVEN receivers already in my first round, and that hasn't happened since 2004. It begs the question, will all the receiver talent generate a run like this or will it cause teams to wait instead, knowing how many options there are? What if it's both?
31. San Francisco 49ers
Carmen Vitali: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
The Niners have put a few players on the trade block over the last few days and said players could very much be used as bartering tokens to help the Niners move around in the draft. For now, they stay put and get a great corner at the bottom of the first. Guess my run on corners didn't end up happening after all.
Scott Smith: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
The 49ers traded an interior lineman to Indianapolis but it still makes sense to draft another outside guy because Arik Armstead can soak up snaps inside. They could definitely use a corner, as Carmen suggest here, but I think the value is higher on Gross-Matos at a position that isn't particularly deep.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
Carmen Vitali: RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia
With a quick and versatile back like Swift, the Chiefs could take an already high-powered offense and give it even more dimension. It'd be a work of art worthy of another Super Bowl… if the Bucs don't beat them to it 😊
Scott Smith: RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia
Well, we started with the same pick and we end with the same pick. It wasn't planned, but it's nice symmetry.